Legally Blonde The Musical
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed – 18th June 2018
“so delightfully implausible that we have total faith in its fanciful outcome”
One of the central messages of “Legally Blonde – the Musical” is not to judge a book by its cover, because appearances can be deceptive. On paper, this musical is ludicrously absurd. Yet the story of the fluffy, seemingly empty-headed Elle Woods who rises to courtroom stardom is so delightfully implausible that we have total faith in its fanciful outcome.
Elle, dumped by her boyfriend Warner Huntington, blags her way into Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back. She soon discovers, though, that her aptitude for the law can help others and she eventually defends exercise queen Brooke Wyndham in a murder trial. Throughout the show, no one has faith in Elle, but she manages to surprise them when she defies expectations, while still remaining true to herself.
Based on the MGM movie starring Reese Witherspoon, the stage adaptation enjoyed Broadway success, followed by an Olivier award winning West End run. This current touring production is slightly scaled down but lacks none of the energy. Mercifully so, for it is that sheer energy that lifts you over the initial hurdles; so that once you get over the gratingly Disneyfied accents, the saccharine score and the sometimes-patronising delivery, you will have a ball.
Lucie Jones pours warmth into Elle Wood’s character that wins us over from the start, with a power and control to her voice that can switch, mid-flight, from soaring beauty to comedy with perfect timing. David Barrett’s raggedly winsome sidekick Emmett totally charms the audience so that you know that he will eventually win Elle’s heart. Helen Petrovna, as murder suspect Brooke Wyndham, stunningly opens the second act with some spectacular skipping routines, from where she, and the entire ensemble, lift the performance to another level.
Yet the show stealer is Rita Simons as Paulette, the spirited salon owner who takes Elle under her wing. Completely in her element she has a comfort on stage that belies her television background, matched by a fine grasp of comedy and, to top it all, a stirring and rich singing voice that is a revelation. Her professionalism allows her to let her hair down just enough to let us know she is having a great time, while her infectious, tongue-in-cheek charisma embodies the spirit of the show.
The tightness of Anthony Williams’ high energy staging and choreography whip away any scruples you might have about enjoying this show. Uplifting to the last, with a finale that will bring the lamest grouch to his feet: it’s like being on a date that starts off a bit annoyingly – but you know you’re going to end up falling in love.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Robert Workman
Legally Blonde The Musical
New Wimbledon Theatre until 23rd June then UK Tour continues to Palace Theatre Manchester
Former EastEnder Rita Simons, Lucie Jones (who is representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Never Give Up On You’ on Saturday May 13), and Coronation Street and Emmerdale actor Bill Ward are to star in a major new UK tour of the smash-hit Broadway and West End show, Legally Blonde The Musical.
Legally Blonde The Musical also has two dogs in the cast, a Chihuahua called Bruiser and another called Rufus, a big, brutish, dog that only its mother could love! Bruiser is already cast and will be on the road but producers have decided to hold auditions for ‘Rufus’ in every town and city on the tour – more details to follow.
Legally Blonde The Musical is an all singing, all dancing romantic comedy, a fun-filled, feel-good pink fest. College sweetheart and homecoming queen Elle Woods, doesn’t take no for an answer. When her boyfriend dumps her for someone more serious, Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books and heads for Harvard Law School. Along the way, Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style.
Based on the Reese Witherspoon film, Legally Blonde The Musical earned seven Tony nominations and 10 Drama Desk Award nominations during its Broadway run. In the UK it was nominated for 5 Laurence Olivier Awards winning 3 including Best New Musical, and was nominated for 8 WhatsOnStage Awards winning 4 including Best Musical.
Legally Blonde The Musical, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hach, based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM motion picture, will open at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley (18 – 23 Sept) then tour the UK and Ireland until June 2018.
Rita Simons (Paulette Bonafonte) is best known for playing Roxy Mitchell in BBC’s EastEnders for which she has won numerous awards and is one of Britain’s best loved actresses. She won Most Popular Newcomer at the National Television Awards and other awards and nominations include Best Newcomer at the Digital Spy Soap Awards, Best Onscreen Partnership for her character partnership with Ronnie Mitchell played by Samantha Womack (who is about to star in The Addams Family Musical), Best Newcomer at the TV Now Awards, a nomination for Best Newcomer at the 2008 British Soap Awards and Best Newcomer at the 2008 Inside Soap Awards. Rita has also appeared on TV in Mile High as Hannah, Dream Team as Julie and London’s Burning. In Spring 2012, Rita was the subject of a major documentary film Rita Simons: My Daughter, Deafness and Me made by Leopard Films for BBC1. Rita actively supports the charity RNID.
Lucie Jones (Elle Woods) is currently playing Maureen in the 20th anniversary UK tour of Rent. Her previous theatre credits include: Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (Leicester Curve); Molly in Ghost (Asian Tour); Victoria in American Psycho (The Almeida); Meatloaf in We Will Rock You (International Tour); Kelly Byrne in The Prodigals (Edinburgh Festival); Cosette in Les Miserables (Queens Theatre, West End and O2 Arena). Her TV acting credits includes: Melody Carver in Midsomer Murders (ITV); Louise in The Sarah Jane Adventures (BBC). Lucie was a finalist in the 2009 series of The X Factor.
Bill Ward (Professor Callahan) is best known for his work on two of the country’s leading soaps. He has just finished 3 years in Emmerdale, playing farmer James Barton (Ross, Pete and Finn’s Dad) for over 300 episodes, who met a gruesome, death at the hands of his emotionally volatile partner, Emma, in one of the biggest storylines of the year. Previously, he played the builder Charlie Stubbs in Coronation Street, also for 300 episodes, who was murdered by his emotionally volatile partner, Tracy Barlow, in one of the soap’s biggest storylines of the year. In addition to his many and varied TV and film credits Bill is no stranger to the stage and has worked on everything from Sophocles to The Spice Girls at Bristol Old Vic, Manchester Royal Exchange, Northern Stage, Clwyd Theatr Cymru, and The National Theatre Studio amongst others. He’s played Prospero in The Tempest in Guildford, Lancelot in Spamalot in the West End, and Kevin the Gnome in a muddy field in Glastonbury.
Also in the cast are: David Barrett (Emmett), Liam Doyle (Warner), Laura Harrison (Vivienne), Helen Petrovna (Brooke), Ben Harlow (Kyle), Nancy Hill (Enid), Rebecca Stenhouse (Margot), Delycia Belgrave (Pilar), Rachel Grundy (Serena), Lucyelle Cliffe (Elle’s Mom), Rosie Needham (Kate Chutney), Alexandra Wright (Leilana), Sally Frith (Gaelen), Mark Peachey (Elle’s Dad/Winthrop/Dewey), Michael Hamway (Aaron), Felipe Bejarano (Sundeep/Nikos), Brett Shiels (Grand Master Chad), Connor Collins (Carlos), Emma Prosser (Swing), Craig Tyler (Swing) and Bruisey (Bruiser).
Further casting to be announced.
High Wycombe Swan
Woking New Victoria
Cardiff New Theatre
Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Belfast Grand Opera House
Dublin Bord Gais
Stoke Regent Theatre
Canterbury Marlowe Theatre
Norwich Theatre Royal
Leeds Grand Theatre
Blackpool Grand Theatre
Glasgow Kings Theatre
Aberdeen His Majesty’s
Inverness Eden Court
Nottingham Theatre Royal
Birmingham Alexandra Theatre
Brighton Theatre Royal
Wimbledon New Theatre